2017: the year the Internet of Things will die – in a sense

The edition 2017 of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas to a high degree is another showcase of ‘new Internet of Things‘ gadgets that some like to classify under the term ‘The Internet of Shit’, on top of other non-IoT related novelties that promise to change the way we drive, watch TV or comb our hair.

Good old principles of true usefulness are all too often put aside for applications and ‘smart’ devices that you don’t need or want. So be it: we didn’t expect CES 2017 to be THE event where the consumer electronics industry or the Consumer IoT (CIoT) space would bring the most exciting and useful innovations you have been waiting for your entire life.

For industry insiders this won’t come as a big shock. We were already warned early 2016, among others by Accenture. We also repeatedly warned that the Internet of Things has become such an umbrella term that is utterly misunderstood and even needed to be divided into other huge umbrella terms such as the Consumer Internet of Things and the Industrial Internet of Things.

If the Internet of Things dies in 2017 that is bad news for the stock photo industry too

Why and how the Internet of Things will die in 2017

Looking at the stream of useless devices and realizing that, as we also often mentioned, the Internet of Things is still in its early days in many areas and sectors (whereby industrial IoT just keep going), it’s not all doom and gloom.

Yes, there are huge security challenges to solve, indeed, the Internet of Things is treated as if it were a thing, and, you are right, there is no universal Internet of Things definition (although in a way there is). Last but not least: as we’ve also mentioned several times (apologies for the repetition), the Internet of Things is probably not the best term invented ever. But then again, the same goes for many other terms – and who really cares in the end?

Whether it’s a bad case of post-holiday blues, a disgust of seeing some of the stuff that is launched and showed at CES 2017, humor,  just another warning sign and call for realism and less marketing fluff, a display of ‘good’ headline writing skills or a mix of all that: Wired has declared 2017 as the year that the Internet of Things will die. Indeed: gone, done, over and out: no more Internet of Things. You can read for yourself, it’s there as part of 7 ‘tech expectations’ for 2017, as bundled by Wired Staff; second prediction: The Internet of Things will die in 2017.

Announced at CES2017 - the first-ever smart hairbrush - source
Announced at CES2017 – the world’s first-ever smart hairbrush – source
Among the reasons why 2017 will be the year that the Internet of Things will die according to Wired’s Klint Finley:

In September, malware took down the website of security journalist Brian Krebs, using internet-connected devices, with a DDoS of pretty ‘epic’ proportions. It was followed by several other attacks and manifestations of serious vulnerabilities.

Nest didn’t exactly handle the shutdown of the cloud service behind the Revolv smart home solutions which Google’s Nest had purchased in 2014, leaving customers in the dark. It led Finley to write an article on the story with the headline ‘Nest’s Hub Shutdown Proves You’re Crazy to Buy Into the Internet of Things‘. Headline skills indeed.

The Volkswagen emission scandal and the fact that someone in the UK spent 11 hours trying to make a cup of tea with a Wi-Fi kettle.

Another token of the nascent death of the Internet of Things, according to Wired’s reasoning, is the success of a Twitter account that many know, Internet of Shit, and send tweets about all that useless IoT stuff and the many challenges (food for tweets in that sense enough). It has over 170,000 followers and it does send hilarious tweets.

We fail to see the link with all these facts and the statement that the Internet of Things will die in 2017 but of course the author wants to make a point.

2017: the year of common sense regarding the Internet of Things?

It’s not the Internet of Things as such that will die according to the Wired article. It’s the term, “which was made up to begin with”. Indeed, the term was coined by someone, as we’ve mentioned. His name is Kevin Ashton.

Kevin Ashton - who reportedly coined the term Internet of Things - in 2015
Kevin Ashton – who reportedly coined the term Internet of Things – in 2015 – By Larry D. Moore, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=44613882

So, a key takeaway of the article in the end is that, according to the author, we need useful, affordable and purposeful IoT appliances and devices. Hey, that makes common sense. We would like to broaden that to smart integrated usage of IoT within a business context.

If that means that the term Internet of Things will die in 2017 or needs a new name as the author suggests seems like interesting food for whomever deems it relevant, knowing that, indeed, the term Internet of Things will one day go away, as we also mentioned.

For the rest we would advise Wired to look less at gadgets and technologies and more at what really happens in business.

No one sets up an Internet of Things project in an organization, they leverage IoT and other technologies to solve a problem or achieve a purpose. Use, purpose, security and so forth are on the agenda of people who are busy with ‘the’ Internet of Things in a serious and ‘common sense’ way. Just look at the theme of last year’s ‘Smart City Expo World Congress 2016‘, for instance. Or at the many IoT projects that are useful and offer ROI, although you won’t find that many in the consumer space as by now most people know.

That common sense is still all too often absent in the coverage of IoT, the continuing stream of useless devices whereby makers seem to forget whether it’s useful to launch such a device or in the end they made it just because they can, and many predictions about the Internet of Things . Of course we agree with Finley’s remark that ‘adding internet remote control to every single product on the market won’t necessarily help us get there’ (to the potential of IoT). A far more interesting take on the obsession of the consumer electronics industry with IoT devices that are built just because they can, is this article by the BBC’s Zoe Kleinman who – rightfully – wonders if tech’s sensor obsessions has gone too far as she visited CES 2017 and saw some of the new applications.

Dislike the term Internet of Things? Neither do we but what’s the point?

Someone once coined the term content marketing. It has been pronounced dead several times. Just like the term big data, email marketing, you name it. In our experience it’s then that things start getting interesting.

And for some weird reason each time we’ve seen similar headlines pop up, going back to the days of the proclaimed death of CRM, we feel an urge to respond.

Another prediction by Wired is that online headlines will get true again. We hope they do and that headlines such as “The Internet of Things Will Die” will go as they aren’t of course true and are only good for traffic, just like all those other death headlines that keep popping up.

Yet, we all get the obvious point: the Internet of Things is not the best term ever and for the applications that make sense times are hard. And of course we need to be awake and conscious about the realities of the Internet of Things and all the fluff and dangers surrounding it in several areas.

As far as the term Internet of Things goes: sure, let it die, it won’t change our lives. Organize a contest for a better term, speak about the Internet of Everything (marketing too though) or talk about the essence of real-life IoT challenges, solutions, use cases and projects. In the mean time we wait until someone declares the death of digital transformation or anything else.

PS: yes, many IoT products, implementations and digital transformation projects will fail, just as, for instance, many content marketing strategies fail, but that of course has nothing to do with terminology and doesn’t mean something has died. And it certainly has nothing to do with a Wi-Fi kettle.

Top image: Shutterstock – Copyright: Jirsak – All other images are the property of their respective mentioned owners.

J-P De Clerck
J-P is the founder of i-SCOOP. Born and based in Belgium, he likes to share information, thoughts, inspiration and anything regarding the convergence of marketing, management, customer-centricity, publishing, digital technologies, psychology, transformation, optimization, media and IT - in the hope it serves you. The mentioned areas are those he has been active in since 1992 as a marketer, a consultant, a publisher and a trainer. Connect on Twitter via @conversionation.